Scientology and the Search for Significance
What do Scientologists believe? How can we learn from them?
BY: Jim Denison
Conclusion: What can we learn from Scientology?
What does the existence and popularity of Scientology say about our culture?
First, it highlights the danger of "postmodernism." Our society believes that there is no such thing as absolute truth (which is an absolute truth claim, by the way). "All roads lead up the same mountain," we're told. "It doesn't matter what you believe, so long as you're sincere and tolerant." If this were true, any key would start your car; any road would lead to your home; any medicine would cure your ailments.
Scientology was born at the same time "postmodernism" began to arise in American culture. In previous generations, its complete lack of evidence would lead to its rejection. But today, most people believe that if the religion "works" for its followers, who are we to judge?
Hubbard embraced this relativism: "What is true is what is true for you. No one has any right to force data on you and command you to believe it or else. If it is not true for you, it isn't true. Think your own way through things, accept what is true for you, discard the rest."
But it does matter what we believe. Scientology rejects the biblical doctrines of sin, repentance, and forgiveness. It teaches that we are all immortal thetans, so there is no need for salvation. If Scientology is right, Christianity is wrong. If Jesus is right, Scientologists are in danger of an eternity separated from God in hell.
Second, Scientology demonstrates the "will to power." According to Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th-century German philosopher, this is the basic drive in human nature. He was right: the first temptation to "be like God" (Genesis 3:5) is the basic temptation today. This lure is central to Scientology's appeal.
Hubbard's oldest son said that his father's goal was "to be the most powerful being in the universe." Hubbard claimed that using the E-meter could raise people's IQ one point for every hour of "auditing." He once told the Saturday Evening Post, "Our most spectacular feat was raising a boy from 83 IQ to 212." By offering us a pathway to achievement and immortality, Scientology appeals to our most basic drive and temptation.
Third, Scientology proves the urgency of relevance. It grows through a four-part strategy: make contact with others, build relationships to lessen resistance to Scientology, find the person's need, and show how Scientology meets it.
While the church clearly offers a deceiving answer, its method is worthy of consideration. Jesus called us to "go and make disciples" (Matthew 28:19), taking his love to the lost rather than waiting for the lost to find us. We are to connect with others through relationships based on compassion. When we find a need we can meet with God's love, we demonstrate the relevance of his grace.
If Scientologists will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and devote years of their lives to taking their message to the world, what price will we pay to advance God's kingdom today?
Note: Sources for this essay include L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (Commerce, California: Bridge Publications, 2007 ); Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, rev. ed. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House, 1997); Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Understanding the Cults (San Bernardino, California: Here's Life Publishers, 1982); and especially Lawrence Wright, whose masterful Going Clear was published January 2013.
Attribution: Jim Denison, Ph.D., is founder of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a non-sectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth. He is the author of seven books, including Radical Islam: What You Need to Know. For more information on the Denison Forum, visit www.denisonforum.org. To connect with Dr. Denison in social media, visit www.twitter.com/jimdenison or www.facebook.com/denisonforum.